Category Archives: teaching

Harry Potter Robes and Other Magical Fun

I’ve had this Harry Potter inspired project on the back-burner for the last few months, but with the new (and last!) movie coming out very soon I knew now was the time to tackle it.

And so, may I present, straight from my sewing room Madam Malkin’s: Robes for All Occasions: Gryffindor school robes!

I used this tutorial on BurdaSyle and although I found them a bit of a challenge to put them together, I am pretty happy with the results.

I used broadcloth for its affordability, and found the Gryffindor crest on Etsy.

If you are thinking of making some yourself, definitely read through all of the comments on the tutorial, as they were really helpful in drafting and cutting out the pattern.  Next time (oh yes, there will be a next time, I still have at least one more to make!) despite the extra fabric it will take, I think I will line the whole front, and not just 4 inches as the pattern calls for.  This was the first time I have used seam tape and I wasn’t really happy with it. 

I can’t wait to hand these robes over to their owner tomorrow! 

Harry Potter Fun!

Your robes are on and you are ready for a magical adventure.  Here are some magical ideas I’ve collected from around the web.  (Most of these I used to create a magical day at Hogwarts for my students, but the kitchen creations would be appreciated by fans of all ages.)

1.  Find or make yourself an owl and send letters by “owl post” in invisible ink.  (I was lucky enough to find a beautiful snowy owl stuffy at a yard sale, but several years ago I made a pompom owl for my mother as part of  Harry Potter-themed birthday present, that, of course, had to arrive by owl post.)  Or write letters in regular ink, or with calligraphy pens,  on “scrolls” (receipt or adding-machine tape works great for this!)

2.  Spend a day taking classes at Hogwarts! 

  • Herbology: create magical plants of your own with art supplies, or use your imagination and spend some time in the garden planting and caring for “magical” plants. 
  • Potions: think cooking or science experiments (magic mud is a favourite), or write your own
  • Transfiguration: play a game of charades
  • Charms: create your own spells
  • and if you have enough people, don’t forget to play a game of Quidditch (I have played a modified version with as few as seven people)

3.  Cook up some favourite Hogwarts treats by following some fun recipes on Heather Bailey’s site: Chocolate Wands, Butterbeer and mini broomsticks, Cockroach Clusters, and of course you could always make chocolate frogs or pretend any jelly beans are of the “Bertie Botts Every Flavoured” variety.   

Enjoy!   And remember: “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus”

Making Butter – Fun for Kids (and Grown-Ups Too!)

You might remember from last year that once a year my students get to choose their own topic of study for a month.  This year the winner was something they called “Ooshy, Gooshy, Take Home Science.”   So this month I have been up to my elbows in goo each day as we explore the messiest science experiments I can find, and at the end of the day there is always something ooshy or gooshy for them to take home with them. 

On one of our theme days I decided to teach the students about kitchen chemistry.  We had already learned about suspensions in a previous science experiment (a solution where solid molecules are suspended in a liquid) so making our own butter seemed like a good extension of this.

It was a hit!   (With the students and the grown-ups in the room.)  It was fun to make, and delicious spread on our home-made pizza dough  (we studied how leavening agents work) with a little garlic and cheese as homemade garlic fingers. 

You can make your own butter, too.  Here’s how:

Start with whipping cream and a clean glass jar with a tight-fitting lid.  (The bigger the jar, the harder work this is going to be so start small.)

Fill the jar 1/3 full of cream.

Now shake!

This takes a lot of shaking, and if there are kids doing it, a lot of “is it done yet?  Can we look at it?  If you stop to look, you will see that it is getting thicker, but it’s not butter yet.

Put some good shaking music on to renew the motivation to keep shaking!  In my classroom we enjoyed shaking around to “Philadelphia Chickens” from the Sandra Boynton CD of the same title.

Eventually it is going to get so thick that you feel like you can’t shake anymore.  Trust me, it can be done. 

On the outside the jar is all white.  On the inside you will find you’ve made whipping cream.  Yummy, but not the goal for the day.  Put the lid back on and shake some more. 

You will know your shaking is paying off when you start to see little bits of clear glass again.  Keep shaking.

As the cream turns into butter and buttermilk the sides of the jar will become clear again and you will be able to see the butter starting to gather.  Keep shaking until you have a nice clump of butter and some milky white liquid (the buttermilk)

Open the jar and pour off the buttermilk (you can save it for baking if you like.)  Rinse your butter with cold water and transfer to a serving dish.

You have just made your very own butter!  (and enjoyed a good arm workout, too!)  Enjoy!

A Little Halloween Fun

With Halloween only a few days away, tomorrow will be our Halloween celebration at school. 

I have a few fun surprises for my students tomorrow, including some pumpkin and spider inspired math games and a monster design lab in the afternoon.

And they are so excited about wearing their costumes to school!  So excited, that they convinced someone else to dress up.

And no…it wasn’t me (I didn’t need convincing.)

Meet Harold.  A childhood friend of hubby’s who made an appearance in my classroom as Dr. Shrinkle, the amazing mathematician who made patterns shrink with his magic shrinking suitcase.  It was love at first sight and my students have been showering him with so much love and affection that he thinks he is a superstar.  

And yesterday they convinced him to dress up as a pumpkin. 

He’s pretty cute, don’t you think?

I will be attending the festivities as the dormouse from Alice in Wonderland (all of the teachers at my school are going as characters from this book, with minimal costume pieces the students will have to guess what story we are all from).

The resident cat is modelling my ears and tail. 

This is one time of year when I am extra grateful for my sewing machine (and glue gun!)

Making Ice Cream

Every year the students in my class have one month where the get to choose, as a class, what they would like to learn about.  I am always amazed by the wide range of topics they come up with (my Grade 1/2′s had World War 2, Crystals and Gems, God, and Circus Performing among some of the final contenders….) and I always enjoy the process of learning something new together.

After much debate my current students finally decided that they wanted to learn about the ice age so we have spent most of May and the beginning of June learning about saber-tooth tigers, wooly mammoths, glaciers, cave paintings and primitive hunting techniques.  My students have begged to watch the movie “Ice Age” as a way to celebrate all that we have learned but as our school has a no movie policy I had to come up with something that seemed equally as celebratory.

So I decided we should make our own ice cream

I have never made my own ice cream before.

Google came to my rescue again and I found directions for making ice cream using two baggies and some ice.  It seemed simple but I have learned from hard experience that I need to try everything myself before attempting it with my students.   So it was that I was making ice cream in my kitchen early Sunday morning.  And then I got to eat ice cream on an early Sunday morning (teaching does have its job perks!) 

This is super easy to do, and really fun! 

To begin, put 1/2 cup milk (I used full fat milk), 1/4 tsp. vanilla and 1 Tbsp sugar into a ziplock sandwich bag and seal tightly.

Then fill a large ziplock bag about half-full of ice and add 6 Tbsp of salt (I used coarse pickling salt – a lot of internet sites said to use rock salt but I couldn’t find any and the coarse salt worked great!)  Nest your little bag of milk into the ice and salt mixture and seal the big bag.

Now set your timer for 5 minutes and massage your bag, moving the ice over and around your bag of milk.  I found it easiest to wrap the bag in a tea towel so that my hands didn’t get so cold and then I just massaged away!  After five minutes are up, open your bag.  The little bag of milk should be cold and solid.  (If it’s not – a bit more massaging in the ice should do the trick).

Use your towel to wipe off the outside of the little bag (you don’t want to get salt into your ice cream) and then spoon the contents into a little dish and enjoy!

It’s not quite what you would get from an ice cream parlour but it’s cold and delicious and you made it yourself – what could be better than that?

Surrounded by Books

It has been a whirlwind of a week-end here.  I spent all day Friday and Saturday at a teaching conference – sitting and listening (oh, it is so hard for me to sit all day!)  Then it was the annual library book sale on Friday night (an event NOT to be missed!) a birthday party for a special young lady on Saturday night (and scrapbooking after – yeah!) and a lovely day spent with my mother-in-law on Sunday.  After fighting with insomnia last night (despite being exhausted – how does THAT happen?) I am ready to head to bed and curl up with a good book.

And right now I have a large selection of books from which to choose.  I am somewhat of an eclectic reader as I enjoy reading many different kinds of books, and am probably one of the few people who actually considers cookbooks to be reading material and not just references (I read mine cover to cover.)  Currently I have this eclectic mix on my nightstand:

I still remember reading “The Shadow on Hawthorn Bay” by Janet Lunn when I was 11 so I couldn’t resist buying another of her books when I saw it at the library sale.  (and when books are only 50 cents and they support one of your favourite places on earth, what did you have to lose?)

Here are my other library sale finds:  I am especially excited about reading “don’t name the ducks” especially since I am the kind of person who probably WOULD name the ducks…. 

And then I found some books for my classroom.

Island of the Blue Dolphins and The Hundred Dresses are must-have classics.   I loved Natalie Babbitt’s “Tuck Everlasting” and so far am also enjoying “The Search for Delicious” (I read half of it last night when I couldn’t sleep.  Children’s literature makes for good night-time reading…)

Not bad for an hour spent at a book sale, and this would probably be enough to keep me going for a while, but it seems this was meant to be a book week-end for me because I LOVED the presenters I saw at Saturday’s conference so much that I felt compelled to buy both of their books!

It really was worth sitting all day.  I am so excited about reading these and applying everything I learned!

  But they will have to wait awhile because I found these in the mail today.

Don’t you just love getting parcels in the mail?  I do!  Especially when they contain…..

more books!  This has to be one of the best perks of having my teaching certification.   I get full use of the big education library in Toronto, I can choose any books I want and they mail them to me for free AND pay the return postage.  Oh the books I can read!!    But as they do have to be returned these titles are now the top ”to read” books on my list. 

I live in a house surrounded by books.

They are on the shelves, they are on the floor, they cover the tables (and couches and chairs) and are in bags by the door!

They entice me with their covers, just waiting to be read, so I’m off to put my feet up, and read them all in bed!

What are YOU reading right now?

Earth Day Books

I am a guest poster on Playing by the Book today as part of their “Fantastic Fiction for Kids” series.   In honour of Earth Day (tomorrow) I share a selection of my favourite environmental education stories.  Check out my post, and then be sure to check out some of Zoe’s other posts for reviews of some great children’s books and  creative and inspiring activities for kids.

A Project Complete – New Preschool Classroom

I’m having a giveaway this week.  Check it out here.

This post is really not the kind of thing I usually blog about (there is nothing here about sewing or gardening or recipes from 1892) but I was SO excited about this project I just had to share. 

For the past two days I have had the pleasure of setting up my school’s new preschool classroom.  The preschool won’t open until September but had to be ready for inspection tomorrow!  I wish I had before shots to show you because you wouldn’t believe the transformation that happened in just two months – there used to be a huge brick fireplace in this room!

Although I am not going to be the preschool teacher I was chosen for this particular job because I used to be the head teacher and administrator of a large preschool.   It was only four years ago that I left that job but in some ways it feels like it has been forever since I was teaching those little ones. 

Setting up the room brought back a lot of fond memories of reading books about Clifford and Blue,  singing “shake your sillies out” with guitar in hand, creating crazy creatures out of mountains of play dough and the joys of watching those little ones grow almost right before your eyes.  Those were good days. 

And good days will be had in this new classroom as well.  The pictures really don’t do it justice (flourescent lighting and my camera really don’t get along).  Every time I walk into the room I just want to stay there and relax and play!

Walking into the room.  To your left there will soon be a water table AND a sand table.  We bought some really swanky sand and water toys too – I really want to try out the water pumps, they look like fun!

 Some of the dramatic play center.  Underneath the table there are two strollers and a shopping cart ready to roll!

Cosy Corner – I’d like to curl up with one of those cute pillows, wouldn’t you?

Block centre.  That large shelf on the left will soon be filled with wooden blocks of all shapes and sizes. 

More dramatic play.  The baskets on the shelves are full of dishes and food, and the large blue bin is full of dress-up clothes.  I must admit that I couldn’t resist chopping up a few velcro “vegetables” as I put them into the basket.  Why didn’t they have those when I was a kid?

One end of the meeting area.  There is a white board, chalk board and magnetic board.  On the other side is the most deluxe teacher’s chart stand I have ever seen (it took 3 hours to put together!)  I am sorry I didn’t get a picture of that, it was a sight to behold.  (If you’re not a teacher you probably don’t understand the excitement, but when you spend all day trying to flip chart paper over without the holes ripping and organizing pocket charts and white boards over and under the chart paper, while your big books are toppling to the floor, and your class is rolling on their back laughing as if it were a comedy act, a chart stand that makes all of this easier is a beautiful thing!) 

Storage for Lego and all sorts of math and science fun.  There is a lot of storage in this room!  I love it!

A cosy little meeting area.

There is one photo I did not get to take.  The back of all the drawing surfaces in the main meeting area are shelving units.  This is where puzzles and table activities are stored.  There are also a whole bunch of cute little tables with cute little chairs and over in the corner a listening centre. 

I am in love with this room.  It almost makes me want to teach preschool again.  Almost.  Because I love what I am teaching now too.  (Despite the lack of velcro veggies…)

Hope you enjoyed the tour! 

We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming….

Child-Drawn Monster Friends

Next week is the last week of school before the Christmas break.  Every year I usually buy books to give my students as  a little Christmas gift.  This year I really wanted to make something for each of them instead.  They are a pretty special group as I taught most of them as Kindergarteners and now I have them in my class again as Grade 1/2 students.   Ever since seeing this post  I have really wanted to try to make child-drawn monsters and thought it would be a perfect gift for them.  This week as part of art class I read my students a book with many different monsters in it and then asked them to draw me a monster that they would want to have for a friend.  Their pictures were so sweet and all of them were oh so different!  I excitedly purchased a bunch of felt and my superhero hubby searched around town to find me a bag of fiberfill (there was a big sale this week and it was sold out in the first two stores he checked!).  After finishing my hot cocoa project last night I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to start this project.  I picked up the first drawing:

Awesome monster – but oh so much detail!  With only this week-end left to work on this project, and all the other projects still left to do (no I still have not yet cut out those pajamas I mentioned yesterday) I began to worry that I would not have time to make 12 monster friends.  :(   Back to the computer for a little more inspiration and I re-found this project.  Perfect!  Pencil toppers would take less time than full-fledged friends and I could glue and paint some of the features on instead of sewing.  Half an hour later my first monster was born!

Kind of cute in a monstery kind of way.  After seeing these my hubby wanted to draw me a picture so I could make him a monster too!  If my big kid likes it, hopefully the little ones will too.  Here are a few more I finished this morning:

More than half-way there, but I’m feeling in need of a bit of a monster vacation.  Maybe I’ll go cut out those pajamas….

Where did the week go?

j0438641I find it hard to believe that a whole week has passed since I made the last Friday post.  Yet somehow it also seems like so much has happened in such a short space of time.  I finally got to meet my students on Monday.  12 little 6 & 7 year olds, all with their own personalities, strengths and ambitions, on loan to me for the next 10 months.  The joy of seeing 7 of them that I had in my Kindergarten class only two short years ago – how they have changed and how they have stayed the same.  Watching children grow is bittersweet.  Gone are their lisps and chubby cheeks,  replaced by a new confidence and independence as they complete tasks they only dreamed of two years ago.  And yet there are snippets there of the young ones I used to know, a distinctive laugh, a bright smile, the sense of humour that still brightens my day.   How blessed I am to be a part of their lives again, to get to watch them grow in this way.  If I can’t be a parent, than surely this must be the next best thing.   And oh the goals I have for them already!  For this one to gain confidence, for that one to have a chance to shine, for another one to discover the joy in learning, for yet another to find pride in a job well done.  And my goals for all of them – to learn to solve conflicts, to encourage each other, to be good people, to care about each other, to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do.  10 months seems like a long time, but I know it will pass like a blink of an eye (although I know there will be days that it will feel like an eternity…) and yet, in the end, I know it will feel like there is never enough time.  It’s a strange job I do.  I will pour all of my time, creativity and energy into these 12 little lives in the next 10 months, set goals with them and help them reach them, teach them what I can, and then I will say goodbye and pass them on to someone else.  Many of them will not even remember me and recall only snippets of our time together as they grow into adulthood.  And I will repeat the whole process year after year, falling in love with a roomful of young ones only to say goodbye in what always seems to be too short a time.    Yet the reward of the little face that looks up at you on your first day of school and says “Boy am I glad to see you!”  outweighs the challenges you know are to come.  Yes, it’s a strange job that I do, a difficult job, but a good one.

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